Thursday, June 18, 2015

Momvoluntary Dadchange

Sarah Skwire writes on how the Mother's Problem parts ways with neoclassical economics. Though she doesn't mention it specifically, I'm fairly sure she'd agree that a great deal of the difference between impersonal, anonymous market exchange and household budget allocation is in the depth and the breadth of the virtues at work. The prudence of a well-written business contract signed in trust is a different sort than the prudence of "don't get in a stranger's car." The courage of taking the firm you built from the sweat of your brow public is different than the courage of asking your relatives for help when your stubborn pride is screaming in your ear otherwise.

In the agora, justice is often a matter of fairness and proportionality in a process, while anyone who's ever had to divvy up the Hallowe'en candy knows, homely justice is chiefly a matter of outcomes. Faith, hope, love: these are all very much different within a family than without. And if you really want to keep the economics, remember your cultural ethnography: the smaller and more intimate the organization, the richer and more detailed the local knowledge. I can be a benevolent, beneficent dictator to my daughter because she is the blood of my blood. You should be unsurprised when I report that apart from her mother, no one on earth knows her as well as I.

Markets have residual claimants. Homes have residual complainants. I occasionally catch myself with the fleeting fancy that some of the moral sentiments that show up in off-euvoluntary exchange are remnants from the tender affections that grow in the home. Resentment against price increases in response to supply shocks is something my three year old daughter might well understand pretty easily. If only there were a way for price scolds to gain some sort of knowledge that would help them overcome their pedestrian intuitions about the relationship between scarcity and prices. Hm.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?